New Zealand 116 for 2 (Williamson 46*, Taylor 22*, Sharma 2-17) trail India 165 (Rahane 46, Jamieson 4-39, Southee 4-49) by 49 runs
New Zealand tightened their hold on the Basin Reserve Test by taking India's last five wickets for addition of just 43 runs and then knocking off 116 of India's paltry total for the loss of two wickets by tea on day two. Ishant Sharma kept India in the contest with his two wickets, but with the pitch easing out a little, India were generally found short of the ideal length for these conditions.
In bright sunshine on the second morning, Ajinkya Rahane and India had a strange half session of Test cricket. Rahane first ran Rishabh Pant out, and then got out caught at the wicket when leaving the ball. Bowling into the wind, Tim Southee complemented Kyle Jamieson's good work on day one with three wickets in the morning session.
Strike two: Ishant Sharma knocks over Blundell
Ishant Sharma goes through the gate to bowl Tom Blundell. Watch New Zealand-India on ESPN+
In the fourth over of the day, Rahane looked for a typical quick single after hitting to point. It should have been Pant's call, but Rahane kept on running, which meant the lesser batsmen of the two had to risk his wicket by running as well. Unfortunately for Pant, Ajaz Patel's shy from point hit the only stump visible just about hard enough to nudge the bail off. One will do well to cut Rahane some slack: this was the first time he was ever involved in a run-out in Test cricket.
The next ball was a perfect outswinger from Southee, hitting that same stump to send R Ashwin back. This was a repeat of the Prithvi Shaw dismissal; neither of these batsmen likes a big front-foot movement.
Rahane had been serene in defence on the first day, often presenting a dead bat and playing the ball late, but now he had to open up a little since he had the tail for company. A top edge off Trent Boult fell just short of fine leg before Southee went wide on the crease to create confusion. Rahane knew he had to cover for the scrambled-seam inswinger too, which meant he was late in withdrawing the bat as he left an outswinger alone. It was enough for the ball to kiss the inside edge and dismiss Rahane four short of a fifty.
Mohammed Shami went on to frustrate Southee for a bit, but in the end the last two were split by Jamieson and Southee on either side of the drinks break.
When New Zealand came out to bat, India either realised the ball was not swinging enough or they were still stuck with the lengths they bowl elsewhere. In New Zealand, you have to get around the 5-metre mark - as the New Zealand quicks did - but India struggled to hit that spot. The one time that Sharma did that, he ended a threatening partnership between Kane Williamson and Tom Blundell by cleaning up the latter with slight late swing. Or perhaps it was movement off the seam.
Sharma's first wicket was not that much skill or accuracy, but just a strangle down the leg side to send Tom Latham back. That was a break India badly needed as 10 overs had already gone by without a breakthrough. Had he had some more luck, his first ball to Williamson might have lobbed up for a catch. Instead this short ball only managed to hurt his right-hand's middle finger, for which he kept getting attention through the second session.
And yet, apart from Sharma, the two other bowlers kept allowing Williamson and Blundell to keep going back and either punch or tuck balls away for runs. Blundell was good at picking the short ball early and pulling it disdainfully while Williamson went about building his innings peacefully. He had to be mindful of the spongy bounce, but 27 balls into his innings, when Jasprit Bumrah bowled yet another delivery short of a length, the new Zealand captain showed he was in. In that over he played both his trademark shots four boundaries: the backfoot punch and the punchy drive off the front foot.
Sharma managed to end that menacing stand with New Zealand still 92 behind. Ashwin found lovely drift and some quick turn, but not enough to get him a wicket. Despite being slog-swept by Ross Taylor for a six, he remained better than innocuous - that role was taken by Shami, who went for 34 in his nine overs.
By tea, Williamson and Taylor, playing his 100th Test, had added 43 in quick time, and the run rate was now only a nudge below three and over, which is usually a marker of control in Test cricket.